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District D5100 – Water and Sanitation (”Wat-San”):

Overview. Every year more Rotary Clubs throughout the Rotary World – and in District 5100 – are doing water and sanitation projects. These days we often join hands to do them more efficiently, and get more bang for each buck – two or more clubs, or clubs working with nonprofit organizations (NGO’s).

We Rotarians make a big difference in meeting this basic human need. It’s rewarding service work, water-rotary-wheel-pin-by-sm-2-08enjoyable to work with Rotarians and Clubs in other countries, as well as other NGO’s. We bring smiles to children and new health to families. We help children be healthy enough, and have time from chores, so they can go to school and focus on literacy. We let families focus on micro-enterprise to gain financial independence, and bring health to whole villages. All of this brings self-reliance in ways we can only begin to imagine.

Past R.I. President Wilf Wilkinson said: “In the years since R.I. has started focusing on water as one of its annual service emphases….. We’ve learned just bangle-jan-08-112_crop_smallhow much can be accomplished with relatively little, how a single small water project, perhaps a pump or a filter, can change the life of a community. However, our work has also included participation in many major water projects.”

You and your Club are invited to join in the fun. Become a Water Club ! The “streams” from each Club project will gather into rivers of potable water and an ocean of improved sanitation. [How's that for a mixed metaphor?]

Rotary and Water. Rotary, UNICEF and WHO have been partners in polio eradication since 1985. We’ve also been partners for decades in water and sanitation (so-called “wat-san”) projects around the world. Rotary clubs and districts partner with other organizations, too. was-image-crop-7-07-056 In October of 2007 Rotary received a high honor from a U.N. organization – the 2007 Humanitarian Award in recognition of Rotary’s significant efforts to provide safe water and sanitation, and its commitment to sustainable development worldwide.

Each year our RI President and the R.I. Water Resource Group have goals for the Rotary year.  For instance, they “urge every Rotarian to become aware of water-related issues and participate in a water or sanitation project.” “Safe drinking water and adequate sanitation are crucial for poverty reduction, crucial for sustainable development, and crucial for achieving any and every one of the Millennium Development Goals” said UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.

The Need for Water. Over 5,000 children die every day for lack of clean water, typically from diarrhea. That’s a jumbo-jet full every hour! An estimated about one billion people worldwide don’t have access to safe water. Just like Maria in PDG Dave’s explanation to our Clubs, children (usually young girls) walk several miles to carry a few liters of water, every day. wat-san-010-was-image-7-07-037And even that water sometimes contains parasites or disease. They aren’t familiar with basic sanitary methods. Children often miss school doing chores or bringing water for the family and their few domestic animals. This map shows needs by area for water. The U.N. set a worldwide Millennium Development Goal (MDG 7, Target 10) that by 2015, the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation will be reduced by half.

The Need for Sanitation. Over twice as many people – over 2.6 billion worldwide – do not have “improved sanitation.” Forget flush toilets – that means they don’t even have a sanitary latrine! Many millions don’t even have an open pit.  Their children go in open fields or streams, which spreads disease and pollutes water supplies. This map shows the need by area for basic sanitation. mdg-sanitation-target-increase-3-09Please read this article from Rotarian mag called Nowhere to Go. Our Clubs need to also focus on Improved Sanitation.

Improvements. Thanks to many groups and governments, including Rotary, things are improving – millions more now have access to water and basic sanitation.  Here is a chart showing significant progress … but there are enormous needs for water, and especially sanitation.

Vision. Envision a world where all people have access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and no one suffers or dies from a water- or sanitation-related disease.  It’s within our grasp … if we act now.

What can we do? The first step is usually to join as a financial partner in a project already organized. This will put your club’s funds to good use, joining with other clubs, matching funds from District and Rotary Foundation sources – it magnifies what you could accomplish alone. As you learn more about your first projects and the Rotary matching grant process, you may someday want to find your own Club project in the future … or collaborate on a larger scale.dsc59075-old-no-dsc00398_crop_small

Is YOURS a “Water Club”?
[Clubs involved in Wat-San Projects]  Jump in … the Water is Fine!
Camas Washougal
Columbia County
Greater Clark County
Lewis River
North Portland
North Tillamook County
Portland Pearl
Salem & Salem Sunrise
South Salem
Vancouver Sunrise
Wallowa County

How to Find a Project. In D5100 we use one of the largest databases of Rotary projects around – MatchingGrants.org.  It lets you search by project type, region of the world, status – then shows which are fully funded, or ready to fund, what stage each project is at, and the contact info for each project leader. mg-water-project-listing-3-09 Here is the list of D5100 projects in the current year. Here is the entire list of available projects. If your club is looking, you’ll find many that are suitable for you to assist.  WASRAG – the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group – has a growing list of projects here, also searchable by type, by district and country.  The Rotary Foundation has a list at Project Link.

What else can I do?

  • Spread our Rotary Water & Sanitation bookmarks all around!  That’s right, you can print and hand out D5100 bookmarks explaining the water and sanitation issue, and what Rotary is doing about it.  Give them to fellow Rotarians, community leaders, school classes, churches – get folks engaged in this worldwide and local concern. [If you can't print, and wish to order some, send an email request.]
  • You can join UNICEF’s TAP Project, where restaurant patrons in the U.S. contribute to wat-san projects around the world, potentially raising $1million. At that website you can learn more, volunteer, sign-up a restaurant, even donate online.
  • Become a charter member of WASRAG for life, only $100.  Its mission: Rotarians working to improve Life and Livelihood through the provision of Safe Water and Sanitation. You will receive a fabulous 20+ min. video on the issues, and what Rotary is doing for water and sanitation in developing countries.
  • Travel to view water-sanitation projects in the field, and do some hands-on work. The wonderful memories and feelings it brings will stay with you the rest of your life.
  • If you have experience in Wat-San, you can join the D5100 “Water Cadre”: speak to clubs, help clubs become water- and sanitation-aware and start a wat-san program in their club.
  • Learn more by reading here, on WASRAG, UNICEF (Millenium goals, statistics) (videos and publications) World Health Organization (WHO), and searching Google on a particular topic.wasrag-application
  • Contribute ideas to this website, and articles in the district WCS newsletter.
  • Help organize a conference on Water & Sanitation, with Rotary clubs, local NGO’s and water providers. Contact Stewart with your ideas, and volunteer for a person-size role.
  • Help gather data about what our Clubs are doing, so we know … and can share.

Photo: Water leads to crops & commerce

The Resources. WASRAG is the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group, made up of dedicated Rotarians from around the world focused on doing wat-san projects. And doing them efficiently, and sustainably. At the WASRAG website you can read several FAQ’s (frequently asked questions), view the Project List, read bulletins, brochures, manuals and presentatons (Resources), and (coming soon) learn about best practices.  One of the best features is a fabulous Rotary water video you can watch online, or show as your weekly program at a Club meeting.   The U.N. Water for Life program has overviews, historical perspectives and many other resources.

Appropriate Technology. In the past, some American and European organizations rushed into developing countries with fancy technology, which ended up without electricity, missing parts, being broken or unused, and a waste of money. We’ve learned to identify the method which is most appropriate for the community needs, suited to the location, with the ability to maintain … and thus is sustainable. Sometimes it is rainwater collection (loads slow but worth it), or a biosand filter, plastic water jugs disinfected by sunlight (SoDis)sodis-1 (a Kenya case study), or novel designs by students like this one. Here are some articles in Wikipedia, and by a UK University, and a NZ Society. Engineers Without Borders and NGO’s “in the field” have learned much of this the hard way; we can benefit from that experience. For instance, look at the forms and steps that EWB may go thru for our Rotary wat-san projects.

Photo: Boy drinks at community faucet

Sustainability. It’s essential to have community buy-in, local leadership and volunteers to carry on the work which Rotary or others start. More on this here with a powerpoint show here. [Sustainability - an important watchword - includes acknowledging local culture and how people do things locally, gaining community commitment to implementing the system and maintaining it, using simple design and sustainable technology, providing repair parts and methods, and figuring into projects how they can last for years and survive weather and disasters.]honduras-rainwater-collection-israeli-project

Photo: Honduras rainwater collection

Reports. Here are combined reports by UNICEF/WHO, charts and graphs, summaries from World Water Week 2007, and several other websites of interest here, here, here and here [coming soon]. You can see visually which areas of the world are already OK, which are “on track” to solve half the problem by 2015, and which are behind and most needy –> for sanitation and for water.

MG Forms. Where would Rotary be without forms! women-in-ehtiopia-wsci_01_img0139Here is a checklist developed by our District to help you check out a wat-san project and host club. Here’s a chapter on matching grants from the D5100 Leadership Training program. Here is a Rotary Foundation guide to MG’s. Here is an application form for matching grants. These forms are due in the hands of the District Grants subcommittee by March 15 each year … but you’d be smart to apply much earlier in the Rotary year.
This spreadsheet calculator will help you with MG figures.
Here is a powerpoint on how to do a MG.

Other Funding. There is a limit to what your Club can raise from its members only; and also a limit on what DDF (District funds) and MG’s (matching grants from The Rotary Foundation) can provide. So think about other sources of funding. Here are some used by other Rotary clubs in the US:

  • local school children and families raise money for wat-san projects (here’s a UNICEF Youth website with brain teasers, games and factoids for school children)
  • churches and other social organizations may join Rotary clubs to work in geographic areas where they already focus
  • private and community foundations, wealthy individuals, corporate foundations
  • international corporations with offices or factories in the needy country
  • some water providers (city or rural water districts) can provide expertise, and sometimes funding if there is broad community support.
  • see some examples in the next section ….

Other Districts do Waterjoining hands with NGO’s:rtns-meet-govt-officials-spring-source-good-flow-excited-to-join-431791395_ijhdz-x3

  • District 7690 in No. Carolina works with Mercy Ships International, and is doing 40 new wells, 200 rehab wells, 200 household latrines, community education, etc.
  • The District 6900 project “Water for Ethiopia” with WorldVision and Hilton Foundation, with each of 70 clubs is contributing at least $1000, and others joining also, will raise $2.2 Million over 3 years, serving many thousand people.
  • District 5330 has worked with Water for People and others, doing many projects over the years.
  • Closer to home, to help hundreds of thousands in Ethiopia, Districts 5020, 5030 and others (including RC Portland) are raising over $100K, teaming up with WorldVision to raise more, and the Conrad Hilton Foundation, bringing the total funding over $1MM; much more than could be done within the Rotary MG process alone.
  • District 5030 with CARE Int’l will help 21,000 people with wat-san in Pakistan, reconstructing systems damaged by earthquake.
  • District 7150 water program – involves many clubs, now is a district-wide program. Likewise in Haiti with Districts 5950/5960.
  • Even popular beverage bottlers have helped Rotary fund water projects, like this dam.rotarians-with-community-leaders-at-location-431791112_4sucl-x3
  • E-club in NY – an electronic Rotary club does wat-san projects, also!

In District 5100 we have 73 Clubs, many corporations, foundations and wealthy individuals – imagine what we could do, pulling together in a common direction.
Guinea worm from water parasites

Wat-San Organizations. Dozens of NGO’s do water and sanitation work, and will work with our Rotary Clubs. Here are some: World Health Organization, UNICEF, World Vision (sitemap), Water for People, CARE International, Engineers without Borders, WaterAid, LifeWater International.

Work with NGO’s. Usually, neither the “international club” (that’s us) nor the “host club” (the club in-country) can do everything to make a project successful and sustainable, it’s good to consider working with an NGO that already has staff or volunteers “on the ground” in that area. Ask the host Club which organizations do that already; and check with the Wat-San organizations above to see if they do.

Photo: Needs By Country/Area.

Where District 5100 is currently involved:

D5100 Contacts: We are developing a “Water Cadre” in District 5100. If you have experience with water or sanitation projects, or want to help other clubs, please join in. The Cadre will guide clubs new to the process, give talks to Clubs, work together on projects, share new or better ideas (so-called “best practices”), and occasionally put on a symposium. If you’d like to join the Water Cadre, email Stewart Martin, our Water and Sanitation Coordinator, or call him at 503.368.7474.

What do we mean by these terms?


Improved sources of drinking water:

Piped water into dwelling, yard or plotindonesia-sm-a1121188_crop
Public tap/standpipe
Protected dug well
Protected spring
Rainwater collection
Bottled water*
* Bottled water is “improved” only where it comes from secondary sources that are “improved”.

Improved sanitation facilities
Flush/pour-flush to:indonesia-sm-a1121234_crop
piped sewer system
septic tank
pit (latrine)
Ventilated improved pit latrine
Pit latrine with slab
Composting toilet


Unimproved sources of drinking water
Unprotected dug well
Unprotected spring
Vendor-provided waterindonesia-sm-a1121202_crop
Tanker truck water
Surface water (river, stream, dam, lake,
pond, canal, irrigation channel)

Unimproved sanitation
Public or shared latrine
Pit latrine without slab or open pit
Hanging toilet or hanging latrine
Bucket latrine
No facilities (so people use any area, for example a field)

- Stewart Martin, Water & Sanitation Coordinator

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